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I live in a very rural area and in 3 months deer hunting season will begin. Dogma is literally scared to death of gunshots and will hide under the bed when I just pick up my rifle (I'm not a hunter but keep one for protection/target practice). Since Karma takes a lot of her cues from Dogma, I want to start working with her now to condition her to the sound of gunfire. Karma is almost 4 months old.

My plan is to have my wife go way down the orchard out of sight (~100 ft./30 meters) with a .38 pistol. When she fires the pistol, I'll give Karma a treat and pet her profusely. We'll start with only one shot the first session and gradually work up to more gunshots and have them closer to us. I plan on doing this over a 3 to 4 week period and start using my rifle and shotgun (much louder and more typical of what she'll eventually hear) as she becomes more conditioned to the sound. Since she's so young, I don't want to get too close and possibly damage her hearing.

So for all you Sch people, does this seem like a workable plan? How old were your dogs when you began conditioning and how close do you get to the dog?
 

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morrmar said:
I live in a very rural area and in 3 months deer hunting season will begin. Dogma is literally scared to death of gunshots and will hide under the bed when I just pick up my rifle (I'm not a hunter but keep one for protection/target practice). Since Karma takes a lot of her cues from Dogma, I want to start working with her now to condition her to the sound of gunfire. Karma is almost 4 months old.

My plan is to have my wife go way down the orchard out of sight (~100 ft./30 meters) with a .38 pistol. When she fires the pistol, I'll give Karma a treat and pet her profusely. We'll start with only one shot the first session and gradually work up to more gunshots and have them closer to us. I plan on doing this over a 3 to 4 week period and start using my rifle and shotgun (much louder and more typical of what she'll eventually hear) as she becomes more conditioned to the sound. Since she's so young, I don't want to get too close and possibly damage her hearing.

So for all you Sch people, does this seem like a workable plan? How old were your dogs when you began conditioning and how close do you get to the dog?
I have no idea what other people do to condition their dogs to loud noises like thunder and gunshot. I personally have never done anything. When I hear loud noises I deliberately don't react at all and the dogs have always cued off of me. Our neighborhood is on top of a hill and I can occasionally hear the shooting range practice at a State prison across the river. It sounds like loud pops - I'll sit outside with the dogs and when Louise was a puppy and first heard them, she looked to me and I just ignored them. I also ignore fireworks on the 4th of July and thunderstorms. Last month we were all sitting at the kitchen table and a bolt of lightning hit the field right behind us - we all saw it. The "BOOM" was huge. My 8 year old daughter about hit the ceiling. Louise looked at me, and I ignored it (it was not easy because it scared the bejeezers out of me), so she ignored it also. So now at 17 months, loud noises do not freak her out. I did the same with Velma when she was a puppy and it worked for her too. We lived in a different house and never heard gunshot there. When she went through the WAE, she had never heard gunshot before and startled but recovered quickly when I did not make any big deal out of it. Startling is allowed at a WAE - it is how they recover that is important.

So, IMHO, if you do the pistol shots - I would totally ignore them - she should cue off of you and hopefully quickly realize that they are nothing to be concerned about. If you make a big deal out of them, she will learn that they are a big deal.

Others may have a different opinion - ignoring big sounds has worked for me with 3 Dobermans now.
 

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I don't know if you can compare this with the schutzhund gunshot, but when we have a dog who is afraid of gunshot we are playing with ball or tug or something while shooting is on the other side of the field, the shooting person gets closer everytime you train it. Do it a lot in the coming weeks, then do ob whilest there is shooting. If that´s ok too, do the shooting far away and then get the shooting closer again. Takes a couple of weeks, but it works.

But again I can not see how the situation is, but that is what we do to get dogs used to gunshot, play and don't give attention to the shot.

Take it slow, ignore the negative reaction, reward the positive.
 

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I think all of the above is good advice. I live in a military town, so they are constantly bombing something, shooting something, or flying over my house. I think it is just kind of "background noise" to us now. But when we started doing it on the field at Schutzhund we did it during obedience. I was on the field with him, had him heeling next to me and when I got on the other side of the field they did the gunshot, the first time he kind of looked over there like what the heck was that....but I just kept on going, and he followed. The second time, it didnt bother him. We went bike riding right by the rifle range today, so we could hear all of the "pop, pop" in the background, I just ignored it and so did he. I think that your reaction to it will be the most important.
 

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I will either ignore or say something like in a matter of fact voice that wasn't any big deal at all and continue on with our playing, training, or whatever we were doing and keep things happy and upbeat. I don't make a big deal and keep on going just like we were doing before the noise. Puppies do take cues from us.
They can get used to things. I raised one puppy by a rural airport and lots of land (during hunting season you could hear gunshots). planes and gunshots were just normal background noise, no big deal. The fourth of July isn't a big deal to my guys and storms are commonplace. I think making a non issue out of it is a big deal and letting her pick up on YOUR reactions about the loud sounds.

Growing up my family liked to shoot and hunt and the Dobermans never cared about the sound of gunshots either, it was nothing to be concerned about.

The WAE includes a gunshot at close range.
 

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I used to live in woods with a lot of hunters around. We just ignored the sounds like mentioned above. I used to take them with me to practice shooting at my grandparents farm so they could get used to the noise of the guns. They would be tied up by the house safely and we would shoot all day. They loved to go, since that meant they would be able to run in the pastures on and off during the day. They would lounge around in the shade under the peach tree yawning. When my BIL brought out his big guns, that was when it got tricky. But they never minded them either. We just made sure during heavy hunting season that they all had orange vests to wear when outside. Especially Harmony. Accidents do happen and have happened. Now Fourth of July is a different story. The big booms are nothing to them, but when it comes to ground fireworks with bright lights and pretty colors, they want to play and chase. Dangerous, so they don't get to watch them. I'd rather not deal with that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks to all who responded. I have no trouble ignoring the shots but as I said, Dogma is absolutely terrified and Karma takes a lot of her "cues" from Dogma, not me.

I had the same problem with bad storms/lightning. When thunder hits, Dogma just freaks out. I mean literally panics. All the positive reinforcement or lack of reaction on my part just doesn't work with her. She must have had a traumatic experience during the fear imprint period before she adopted us. I got around this one with Karma by playing recorded thunder really loud on our home theater system and giving Karma a treat every time there was "thunder". Now when a storm hits, Karma ignores it and starts looking for a treat while Dogma heads under the bed.

"Take it slow, ignore the negative reaction, reward the positive."

That's the road I'm headed down and is sage advice. I just have to isolate Dogma during training so Karma will take her cues from me.
 
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